This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
UBS plans to add 1,000 new jobs in Nashville over the next five years, expanding the global banking giant’s service center here to become the business solutions center for the Americas. The Swiss company’s expansion represents a $36.5 million capital investment. It also would involve relocation to downtown Nashville of work handled at UBS’ current 39,000-square-foot service center at 3325 Perimeter Hill Drive in South Nashville, where it employs 230. Among economic incentives, UBS should get a per-job cash grant from the city upon Metro Council’s approval.
Financial services firm UBS AG on Wednesday announced it will consolidate back office functions in Nashville, creating 1,000 jobs in the city over the next five years. Kathleen Lynch, the chief operating officer of UBS Group Americas and Wealth Management Americas, said the Swiss bank is investing more than $36 million in the city, where it already employs more than 200 people. “The global strategy for UBS is to create regional hubs around the world,” she said. “We have hubs in India, China, Poland and Nashville will be the Americas hub.”
Job postings are already going up after global wealth manager UBS announced the creation of a new office in Nashville. The Swiss bank plans to add a thousand jobs over the next five years. This is more than just an expansion of the current UBS operations in Nashville. The company has more than 200 employees in town, primarily from the acquisition of what was brokerage firm J.C. Bradford. The new jobs support the bank in multiple countries. “The global strategy for UBS is to create regional hubs around the world,” says UBS Americas chief of operations Kathleen Lynch.
This morning Alcoa Tennessee Operations will break ground on a $275 million expansion. Alcoa Inc. Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld, Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Lamar Alexander and Congressman John Duncan are among the dignitaries expected to be at the ground-breaking ceremony. The expansion will enable the plant to produce aluminum for automobiles. Automakers plan to use more aluminum in order to improve safety, fuel efficiency and the overall performance of cars and light trucks. The addition to the plant is expected to be finished by the middle of 2015. Alcoa says the addition will generate more than 400 construction jobs. Alcoa will also hire an additional 200 full-time employees to operate the expansion.
Memphis’ startup community continues collecting recognition beyond the city limits to go along with the steady attraction of new platforms, investments, mentors and programs for startups here. Earlier this week, all four startups from Memphis that competed for a spot in The TENN – Tennessee’s first master accelerator program – made it through. To do that, those four companies first participated in the state’s first-ever “Demo Day,” Aug. 27, organized by LaunchTN. The four companies from Memphis, which comprise almost half of the first batch of The TENN, are Mobilizer, Screwpulp, Health & Bliss and View Medical.
Shelby County Chancellor Arnold Goldin has been tapped to replace Alan Highers on the Tennessee Court of Appeals at the end of next year when Highers retires. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Goldin Tuesday, Aug. 27, to the appeals court post that opens when Highers finishes his full term of office. The appointment is a reflection of the normal process for filling judicial vacancies in a political vacuum that includes some conflicting dates that would complicate the process.
Knoxville-area state legislators offered differing opinions Wednesday on the apparent death of plans for a James White Parkway extension, while Gov. Bill Haslam simply said the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization’s decision will stand. “We respect the TPO’s decision and will look for other alternatives to ease congestion and improve safety along Chapman Highway,” said the governor, a former Knoxville mayor, in a one-sentence statement relayed by a spokeswoman.
Tennessee unnecessarily paid out $1.47 million in health benefits during 2012 for 24 people whom state auditors say weren’t eligible to be in the state’s high-risk health insurance pool for the uninsurable. Twelve enrollees were found to be eligible for the federal Medicare program for seniors and thus shouldn’t have been allowed to join the state’s AccessTN program, which serves those unable to find health coverage, the audit states. The audit, performed by Comptroller Justin Wilson’s State Audit Division, examined a number of programs and procedures in the state’s Department of Finance and Administration.
Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper said the state joined the U.S. Justice Department and five other states in opposing the proposed $11 billion merger of U.S. Airways and American Airlines, because of the state’s experience with past airline mergers. I don’t need to remind people in Memphis that false promises in previous mergers have never materialized,” Cooper told a group of 100 Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Memphis Rotary Club, referring to the 2008 Northwest Airlines-Delta Air Lines merger and its impact on airfares and air service at Memphis International Airport.
With the clock ticking on efforts in Washington to reform immigration this year, a group of Tennessee business leaders on Wednesday called on lawmakers to set aside politics and get new laws enacted. Businesses across the state grapple daily with the uncertainty around employing undocumented workers, said Catherine Glover, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “It’s really time to reform the broken immigration system. Glover said during a panel discussion at the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University.
The political tide of late-in-the-year elections begins rolling Thursday, Aug. 29, with the candidate-filing deadline for state House District 91. The filing deadline is noon Thursday, the day before early voting opens in the regularly scheduled municipal elections in Arlington and Lakeland. The candidate-filing deadline for the state House District 91 seat, which became vacant last month with the death of Rep. Lois DeBerry, is noon Thursday. The District 91 House seat became vacant with the death last month of veteran state Rep. Lois DeBerry.
The General Assembly was not in session Wednesday, but serious plans of action were drawn following an hourlong meeting at which legislators quizzed state and local officials about where money could be found, how red tape could be eliminated and what information was available to help quicken needed flooding fixes in Johnson City. “We can draft a bill this summer,” state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, told the Johnson City Press after the meeting while pressing a cell phone to his ear to check on state law and confirm facts.
With her 2-year-old son fidgeting beside her on Wednesday, Latoya Jemes described how her rent and her utilities compete to consume the biggest part of $7.45 an hour she earns working the graveyard shift at a Memphis fast-food restaurant. As a single mother who also has a 7-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son, food stamps each month help her put food on the table, Jemes said. Government assistance provides the family health care. Jemes, 24, said she will be among fast-food restaurant workers in Memphis joining others staging a one-day strike Thursday planned for some 50 cities, including for the first time some in the South.
Organizers say thousands of fast-food workers are set to stage walkouts in dozens of cities around the country, part of a push to get chains such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s to pay workers higher wages. It’s expected be the largest nationwide strike by fast-food workers, according to organizers. The biggest effort so far was over the summer when about 2,200 of the nation’s millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities. Today’s planned walkouts follow a series of strikes that began last November in New York City, then spread to cities including Chicago, Detroit and Seattle.
Emboldened by an outpouring of support on social media, low-wage fast-food and retail workers from eight cities who have staged walkouts this year are calling for a national day of strikes Aug. 29. The workers — who are backed by local community groups and national unions and have held one-day walkouts in cities such as New York, St. Louis and Detroit — say they have received pledges of support from workers in dozens of cities across the country. The workers are calling for a wage of $15 an hour and the right to form a union.
Tennessee has the highest combined state and local sales tax rate in the country at 9.44 percent and Alaska the lowest at 1.69 percent, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank. The combined sales tax rates were calculated by combining the state sales tax rate with an average of local sales taxes, adjusted for population, the research organization said in its report released Wednesday. Alaska has no statewide sales tax, along with four other states (Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon), but allows its localities to charge sales taxes.
As a mayor, finance commissioner and U.S. senator, Bob Corker has played golf with the president, led the building of Chattanooga’s’s 21st century waterfront and helped write the state budget. But the 61-year-old businessman-turned-politician said Wednesday his greatest thrill in public office came in 2008 when he got a call from Germany interrupting a Senate committee hearing telling him Volkswagen would build a plant in Chattanooga. “I still get choked up thinking about it,” Corker told a gathering of Chattanooga business leaders organized by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center and the Company Lab.
The United States should make “surgical strikes” against Syrian military targets involved in the recent chemical weapons attack on hundreds of Syrian people, but the U.S.should not send ground forces into the war-torn nation, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said today. Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relation Committee, said he would support a limited air attack or use of cruise missiles into Syrian targets to demonstrate the opposition by the United States and other countries to the use banned chemical munitions.
As prospects mounted Wednesday for military strikes on Syria, with or without U.N. approval, some military veterans in Chattanooga spoke about America’s role and the responsibilities of a war-weary nation. Two retired generals took opposing views, with Army Gen. Burwell “BB” Bell saying the U.S. needs to protect its interests, even if that means a prolonged bombing campaign. Retired Army Gen. Bob Woods prefers to see a Syrian response from the international community. “I don’t think America is ready to engage somewhere on the other side of the world where they don’t see any immediate concern for why we should possibly deploy again,” said Woods, who now lives in Rising Fawn, Ga.
All of East Tennessee’s representatives in the U.S. House and both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators are members of the Republican Party. But the elected officials from the GOP serving in Congress are taking very different stances on potential military action in Syria. Representatives Jimmy Duncan and Phil Roe oppose U.S. military involvement in Syria. Senator Bob Corker supports “surgical” strikes against the Assad Regime in Syria. “I don’t think there’s any question in our administration’s mind that chemical warfare has been used,” said Corker.
The Obama administration said Wednesday it would take action against the Syrian government even without the backing of allies or the United Nations because diplomatic paralysis must not prevent a response to the alleged chemical weapons attack outside the Syrian capital last week. New requests for the United Nations to authorize military action in Syria may have complicated the Obama administration’s plan to take retaliatory action on the purported poison gas attack east of Damascus that U.S. officials claim was carried out by President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Tennessee will be able to reduce the costs of advanced placement test fees for low-income students with a U.S. Education Department grant of more than $340,000. A total of 42 states are receiving $28.8 million for the effort. The grants are based on the expected number of students who will take the tests and other factors. The department says it expects the grants will pay all but $10 of the costs of each test. States may require students to pay part of the costs. The Education Department said in a news release the program is meant to encourage the students to take the exams and gather college credit while they’re in high school, cutting down the time needed to finish a college degree later.Tennessee is receiving $344,613.
Another of TVA’s top executives is leaving. The utility said Wednesday that Janet Herrin, its chief administrative officer, is retiring. According to her bio, Herrin is responsible for administrative, human resources and labor relations activities, including oversight of land and shoreline management, government relations, supply chain and facilities. She has worked at TVA since 1978.The agency said Herrin will stay through October to ensure a smooth leadership transition.
One of Wilson County’s top employers has been shut down by a strike. About 400 production employees at the TRW Automotive plant in Lebanon went on strike after rejecting a new contract in a lopsided vote on Sunday, according to the United Auto Workers union, which represents the workers. They’re unhappy about concessions the company wanted in the new contract, particularly in the way overtime pay is computed, increases in co-pays for health care and the use of more temporary employees at the plant, TRW Commercial Steering Systems, said UAW District Directory Gary Casteel, who is based in Lebanon.
His presentation may have been the shortest during the Wednesday morning Clarksville-Montgomery County Growth Summit, but local Industrial Board Executive Director Mike Evans came armed with the most significant and impactful information nugget of the day: Clarksville is a finalist in a bid to potentially land an undisclosed automotive supply manufacturer that could bring more than 1,000 direct jobs to town in an investment of more than $700 million.
Clarksville is a finalist in a bid to land an undisclosed automotive supply manufacturer that could bring more than 1,000 direct jobs to town with an investment of more than $700 million. Officials in recent days have said about three states are competing for the major industrial prize, including Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee — with Clarksville the lone city under serious consideration in Tennessee. The news was confirmed Wednesday morning during an economic growth summit by Mike Evans, executive director of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Industrial Development Board.
For eight years, Nashville executive George McReynolds has been the face of a fight against racial bias at Merrill Lynch, the world’s largest brokerage house. On Wednesday, the company announced it would pay $160 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that was filed in 2005. If approved by a federal judge in Chicago, as expected, the payout by Merrill Lynch to about 1,200 plaintiffs would be one of the largest ever in a racial discrimination case.
Murfreesboro City Schools plans to use its portion of the $8 million in federal education funds distributed to 83 districts in Tennessee to bolster professional development for teachers hired within the past three years. MCS received a little more than $88,000 as part of the $500 million the state won three years ago in the national Race to the Top education grant competition, according to Lisa Trail, MCS spokeswoman. “The current plan will use a good portion of the $88,000 to provide new teachers — those hired in the last three years — with the professional development that was provided initially to teachers when Race to the Top originally rolled out,” Trail said.
Oregon health officials are concentrating on coordinating services and preventing hospital stays. New Jersey medical centers are rewarding doctors who can save money without jeopardizing patient care. And Massachusetts is expanding the role of physician assistants and nurse practitioners. As states work on implementing the complex federal health care reforms, some have begun tackling an issue that has vexed employers, individuals and governments at all levels for years — the rapidly rising costs of health care.
Several Republican-led states at the forefront of the campaign to undermine President Obama’s health-care law have come up with new ways to try to thwart it, refusing to enforce consumer protections, for example, and restricting federally funded workers hired to help people enroll in coverage. And in at least one state, Missouri, local officials have been barred from doing anything to help put the law into place. The actions have drawn less attention than congressional efforts to cut off funding for the law, or earlier state decisions to refuse to set up online insurance marketplaces or reject an expansion of Medicaid, which sharply limited the law’s reach.
State civil service rules originated a century ago to prevent incoming governors from replacing state workers with their political supporters. Now a handful of governors are working to change those rules, saying they make it difficult to hire and retain the right employees and to fire anyone — even the worst underperformers. “I’ve got a $20 billion operation I’ve got to run, and you can’t run it with your managers’ and your executives’ hands tied,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said in an interview with Stateline. McCrory, a Republican who worked for 28 years for Duke Energy, wants public sector employment to be more like employment in the private sector.
Unless a handful of wavering Democrats change their minds, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them here. A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer. The law amounts to the most far-reaching states’ rights endeavor in the country, the far edge of a growing movement known as “nullification” in which a state defies federal power. The Missouri Republican Party thinks linking guns to nullification works well, said Matt Wills, the party’s director of communications, thanks in part to the push by President Obama for tougher gun laws.